Do you watch some action movies for the hand to hand combat?
Like The Matrix, Kill Bill, and Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan movies? Do you have a hard time getting into fight scenes from most movies because the physical struggle isn’t very convincing or inventive and poorly executes simple self-defense ideas that you can’t ignore? Well I do, and I can never leave it alone. It’s an itch I have to scratch.
For me, animation has gained some incredible appeal for good fight choreography, especially in the realm of Anime. But American animation has generally been inoffensive at best. At worst, it’s downright pathetic at executing any sort of dramatic combat. I sigh at just about every animated super hero show that has tried… X-Men, Spiderman, Iron Man, Ben 10, Hellboy, etc. Even though most of their content may still have been good, the combat feels weak and clunky.
Enter Joaquim Dos Santos.
Who’s that? He’s directed pivotal episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender (including the final two parts of the epic four-part season three finale). Justice League: Unlimited suddenly had jaw-dropping action when he hopped on board. And he was the executive producer for the much-anticipated and well-received sequel series to Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra.
That’s what fans have nicknamed him. All because he directs fantastically choreographed fight scenes. But his personal story speaks to a “fighting” personality as well. His meteoric rise from no work history to directing major animated shows is an inspiration. One I’m entirely awed by…
His career starts with He-Man: Masters of the Universe as a storyboard artist. You can see his talents in the fight scenes on the show. He moved on to Justice League, storyboarding before they went Unlimited. Who directed the first episode of the revamped Justice League: Unlimited? He did.
Here’s a clip from one of the best episodes of JL: Unlimited…
When Justice League: Unlimited ended its run, he repeated the pattern with Avatar: The Last Airbender, joining the show as a storyboard artist in the second season and directing some of the best episodes of Season 3 (“The Headband”, “The Puppetmaster” and “The Beach”).
He knows his stuff when it comes to fight choreography… and surprisingly, comedy, a sensibility that goes hand in hand with action for him. After spending 14 years regularly practicing martial arts, I can appreciate it when someone does combat right. And he’s only been in the business for a about 8 years.
He now is the lead director for The Legend of Korra. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. If you enjoy particularly good combat animation with great comedic moments thrown in, you’ll love it. He satisfies my need for great compelling combat while keeping me hooked on the story of the characters. His skill and reputation for a specific aspect of the art of animation that hardly anyone gets right led to a quick rise in the industry. I’d love to be like him and tell amazing stories.
What thing do you always pick on movies for that filmmakers rarely seem to satisfy?